Three Irish Army Rangers have been airlifted to safety after they were injured when a roadside bomb blast hit their patrol in war-torn Mali in Africa.
The Rangers suffered minor injuries in the blast and later received medical treatment at a military hospital near their base in Gao.
The soldiers were part of a multi-national convoy carrying out a routine patrol about 70 kilometres east of Gao around 2 pm yesterday.
One of the vehicles in the convoy appears to have driven over the improvised explosive device, which had been concealed by the roadside.
The blast shook their light armoured vehicle, a Mowag Eagle.
The three men all sustained bruising and scratches as the Mowag was hit but were all said to have been capable of walking as they were being moved by helicopter from the scene back to their base.
Earlier today 3xDF personnel deployed with MINUSMA in Mali sustained minor injuries when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded close to their convoy. All personnel are safe and their next of kin have been informed. For a note on the incident click https://t.co/XsmglcEqCz. pic.twitter.com/X4L2XWSdhR— Ãglaigh na hÃireann (@defenceforces) February 25, 2020
The Rangers reached the base about 3pm and were immediately taken to the military hospital.
Peacekeeping troops in the area are constantly on a high state of alert in the Gao area as a result of the tensions.
There have been many attacks using improvised explosives on the multinational United Nations mission.
But this was the first attack in which Irish troops were involved.
The Defence Forces said last night that the Rangers, who are serving with the MINUSMA mission in Mali, were all safe and well and their next of kin and families had been contacted.
Army sources said the force protection measures for the deployment had worked well.
The Defence Forces carries out intensive pre-deployment mission training to prepare their personnel for an incident similar to yesterday’s attack.
This is the first deployment of the Army Ranger Wing as an unit in overseas duties since their special forces role in Chad in 2008.
14 Rangers were deployed last year and they are based with the mission – on a four-month and six-month rotation – for two years.
The Rangers are the special operations group within the Defence Forces and are regarded as an elite military group, trained and equipped to undertake a range of specialist roles.
Their capability is seen as a significant asset to the State, both in a domestic, national security role and in overseas duties.
The Rangers have been previously deployed on US mandated peacekeeping operations in East Timor, Liberia and Chad where their particular skill sets had been required.
The peace enforcement mission, MINUSMA, is the most dangerous United Nations missing in the world with fatal casualties running into three figures since 2013, as a result of improvised explosive devices, rocket strikes and suicide attacks.
Deployment of the Rangers was approved last summer by the Cabinet after Minister with responsibility for Defence, Paul Kehoe ordered a comprehensive review of possible Irish participation by military management and his own senior departmental officials.
The Defence Forces also have a detachment serving with a separate UN mission in Mali, dedicated to training local military.
Those personnel are all deployed in relatively safe jobs and are not active in danger zones.
Ireland has declared it has a key interest in contributing to security and stability in Western Africa, which is a prime focus of the international aid programme.
The Rangers will also form a “significant element” within the 148-strong military detachment, participating in a German-led battlegroup, which will be on stand-by for the second half of this year.